KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

AMA Unhappy With Senate Plan For Medicare ‘Doc Fix’

The American Medical Association is criticizing "a Senate plan for avoiding a proposed 21 percent cut in government payments to physicians who treat the elderly, calling the proposal a 'Band-Aid' measure," Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reports.

"The plan, part of an $80 billion job-creation proposal announced yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would block the Medicare payment cuts from taking place as scheduled March 1." But the AMA "urged a permanent repeal of Medicare's payment formula, which has led the government to propose annual fee cuts. While Congress has overridden the payment reductions each year so doctors would continue to treat elderly patients, the Chicago-based group backed a permanent fix in companion legislation to a proposed revamp of the U.S. health-care system, which now is stalled" (Thomas, 2/10).

NPR's Shots health blog: "The problem stems from a glitch in the pay formula Congress created back in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. For four years, doctors got larger increases than they probably should have. But since 2001, the formula started calling for cuts. That year, Congress let those cuts take effect. But since then, its been putting them off, usually a year at a time. And the postponed cuts have piled up. During the height of the debate over health overhaul in December, Congress delayed the cuts by a mere two months. Now Republicans and Democrats can't agree how much longer to postpone them" (Rovner, 2/10).

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